Weight gain is the most obvious and common sign of a hormonal imbalance. This article reviews imbalanced hormones and weight gain, along with available treatments.
Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body. They carry messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues. In other words, these signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.
Below are some of your hormones that play a role in metabolism, hunger, and weight management. An imbalance in these hormones may contribute to weight gain.
Cortisol is a hormone released from your adrenal glands in times of stress. It is part of the fight or flight response. This response is the body’s physiological reaction to threats or danger.
Ongoing stress can result in imbalanced hormones and weight gain. Learning how to manage your stress is essential for health and weight management.
Stress, Imbalanced Hormones & Weight Gain
In a previous blog post, I talked about the impact of excess weight on health and the aging process. Losing excess weight can greatly improve your health and supports anti-aging efforts.
Stress management is typically an overlooked aspect of most weight loss programs. If you are struggling to lose weight with diet and exercise, examine the stress in your life.
What can you change to reduce or eliminate stressors? How can you better manage your stress?
The hormone Insulin helps the body store glucose in the cells. Insulin resistance is a common condition and is linked to obesity.
Your cells don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose for energy. This results in high blood glucose or sugars, putting you at risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
Treatment of Insulin Resistance
There are many medications available for insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. In addition, lifestyle changes are also very effective in avoiding or reducing medications.
Type 2 Diabetes is now considered to be a reversible condition. Lowering the amount of Carbohydrates you eat, increasing activity, improving sleep, and managing stress all can improve insulin resistance.
Testosterone’s main role involves development of male characteristics. These include facial hair, deepened voice, and increased muscle mass. Testosterone maintains muscle mass, promotes muscle growth, and increases bone mass in both genders.
The hormone Testosterone decreases with age. This explains the decline in muscle mass and bone strength associated with aging.
Men with Imbalanced Hormones and Weight gain
Obesity in men is associated with low levels of Testosterone. There is some evidence to support weight loss with Testosterone Replacement Therapy. Replacing Testosterone in obese men with a Testosterone deficiency produced weight loss.
Other positive side effects from replacement include increased muscle mass and energy, along with promotion of physical activity.
Symptoms of Testosterone Imbalance in Men
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Low Mood
- Reduced Muscle Mass
Symptoms of Testosterone Imbalance in Women
Women also experience imbalanced Testosterone. When women have too much testosterone, it throws off the balance of male and female hormones.
High testosterone is a symptom of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Weight gain is a hallmark of this condition. Treatment includes medications that balance out hormones.
Low Testosterone in Women
Testosterone levels decline with age. This in turn impacts muscle mass and metabolism. Other symptoms of low testosterone in women include weight gain, depression, muscle weakness, and sexual dysfunction.
Treatment of low testosterone in women varies depending on your physician. Low testosterone treatments are available, however, there is not a standard of care. Doctors continue to study testosterone imbalance in women.
Declining Estrogen is linked to an increase in abdominal fat in women as they approach middle age. Perimenopause and menopause can result in weight gain, lowered metabolism, and increased body fat.
Some evidence suggests that Estrogen Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may increase a woman’s resting metabolic rate. Hormone Replacement Therapy may combat this hormone imbalance, and the weight gain that occurs in middle aged women.
Your body fat releases Leptin to help you maintain your usual body weight. It does this by regulating hunger and producing a feeling of fullness.
Leptin plays a role in your weight’s “set point”. Your body produces a certain amount of Leptin to maintain energy balance. In turn, your body tends to maintain a usual or typical weight.
An imbalance of Leptin may contribute to weight gain in the form of fat. This is a result of Leptin decreasing hunger and lowering metabolism.
Treatment for Leptin imbalance or resistance is not available. Leptin and its’ role in weight management requires more research.
Gherlin function is the opposite of Leptin. This hormone signals to your body that you are hungry. Ghrelin increases with dieting, which in turn leaves you feeling hungry. This can make weight loss difficult, and even contribute to weight gain.
There are not any current treatments for imbalanced Gherlin. Much like Leptin, more research is needed on Ghrelin. An increased understanding of Gherlin and Leptin would improve treatments and prevention of Obesity.
Final Thoughts on Imbalanced Hormones & Weight Gain
There are treatments available for imbalanced hormones and weight gain. In addition, changes in lifestyle impact hormonal imbalances and weight gain. Lifestyle factors include diet, exercise, sleep hygiene, and stress management.
In conclusion, there are many hormonal issues that may contribute to weight gain. Talk to your physician if you suspect your weight gain may be related to a hormonal imbalance.
Reviewing symptoms and performing laboratory tests can rule out or determine hormonal imbalances.
Kathryn is a Registered Dietitian and a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She is also Certified through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in Weight Management.